Messages to the Self

I had the good fortune of being Gavin Cowley’s host during the Annual MBA Function of the University of Stellenbosch Business School on 9 November 2013.  It was my wife’s birthday and I took the gamble to rather attend the function. It was a brave move, as all men would know. Yet, today I am delighted that I did take that brave move. The reason? Gavin shared a few of the insights in leadership he had gained over a lifetime in the world of sport and sporting equipment.

I want to use this posting to share the main points that I took away from that evening. I will add a bit of my content, as it made sense to me.

The first message Gavin provided to the Self was to “Develop a Personal Brand”. We are all brands in our own right. However, to do justice to this, we need to know ourselves. We need to understand what makes us tick and what we are good at and what we are not good at. We need to know our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to develop a personal vision, mission, values and purpose for our own personal brand, very much like the core strategic philosophy Marius Ungerer talks about in his book, Viable Business Strategies! We need to draw up and develop our personal balance sheets, and we need to remember that EQ is any time as important, if not more so, than IQ!

The second message to the Self, was to “Foster a Team Ethos”! Gary Player believed in 2 D’s, i.e. Dreamers and Doers. Many people are dreamers and do not get anything done. You need the discipline to do; without Doers in your team, you have nothing. Christo Nel refers to his 4 quadrants of leadership, i.e. vision (dreamers), interdependence (people), systems, and action (the doers). While you might get people excited with a great vision (which is required), if you do not implement (the doers), you have nothing! If you only have dreamers, you will go bankrupt. You might be excited about the journey, but you definitely will go bankrupt! Few people have sufficient skills and competencies in all 4 quadrants. You therefore need a team, which again needs an ethos that binds them together in a healthy manner!

Gavin also referred to Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, who spoke of care, clarity and trust. These 3 factors were critical for fostering a team ethos. You need to care for the people in your team – genuinely care for them. If you are not genuine, they will find you out and they will reject you! You need to be very clear on your expectations of them. They will not perform if there is no clarity – confusion creates havoc! And lastly, there needs to be trust. People will not follow you if they do not trust you, and if they feel you do not trust them. Trust is a reciprocal property – in order to be trusted as a leader, you need to trust your subordinates!

The third message to the Self, is “Aim to Leave a Legacy”! Leave a contribution to society. Do not focus selfishly on your own needs and wants. Go beyond the here and the now. Transcend the level of the self and work towards the benefit of the whole! Make a difference to the people around you, to the society around you! We have excellent role models in this regard. Think of a Nelson Mandela, a Beyers Naude, a Desmond Tutu, a Martin Luther King, a Mother Teresa! They let go of selfish interests and strove towards the benefit of the whole! They left legacies!

The fourth message to the Self, is “Be The Best You Can Possibly Be”! Strive towards perfection and achieve excellence in whatever you do! Develop your skills and grow your competencies. Hone and sharpen those skills. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the magic number of hours of input for true expertise, i.e. 10 000 hours! This is therefore not something you decide upon and it suddenly happens. It requires hard work and dedication. But being a “less than you” is hardly something that will inspire others – neither your team members nor your customers! And it is something that will haunt you later on in life when you come to realise that you skimped on growing yourself to being the best you can be!

The last message to the Self is “Develop People and Have Fun”.  Hire people better than yourself and give them the opportunity to grow and develop to something even better. I have heard people say that developing people is an expensive exercise, and that they frequently leave after having been developed. Can you think of something worse than not developing them and they stay?! Jim Collins refers to growing and developing people as belonging to the traits of Level 5 leadership.

And you need to have balance. Gavin referred to our personal pie chart. What does it look like? On what do you spend your time? Is there a balance between work and family? Between work and exercise? Between work and life? I am not propagating being laid back and lazy. But spending 95% on your work is not a balanced life style, and you will pay the price! Passion is great, but balance is important to direct this passion and to nurture and protect it! Design and innovate your personal business model. See what you spend your time on, who the beneficiaries of your value propositions are, and whether they are internally and externally aligned!

A last thought from Gavin: Be positive. 95% of things that you think will go wrong…….don’t!

PS After reading the first draft, Gavin remarked that Gary actually shared 3 D’s: Dedication, Devotion and Discipline. None of these need any elaboration, but do need Balance! In addition to this, Gavin also remarked that Morne du Plessis added an E to the 3 D’s, namely Enjoyment! This is where the Balance comes in!  Nothing in life is so important that Enjoyment can be left out of the equation!

Thanks Gavin!

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4 Responses

  1. Liesl says:

    Thanks – just the advice I was seeking!

    • johanhburger says:

      It appears I need it as well. I got a talking to from the missus about my priorities. Balance is a factor that I do need to seriously work on.

  2. Lebo Khasapane says:

    Thanx for a constructive read Johan. An excellent relief from the junk in most sunday papers which I must read in order not to get a heart attack worrying about my subscription fees.